The world’s largest social network rolled-out Nearby Friends today allowing users to both share their location and notify you when your friends are nearby using its mobile app for Android and iOS.
Utilizing the geolocation technology built into nearly all smartphones, the app will send periodic push notifications to you when your friends are nearby. While users have for some time been allowed to share their locations as part of a post, this new feature will allow users to broadcast their location to everyone without posting once they opt in to Nearby Friends.
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Nearby Friends explained
“The mission of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is to connect people, to bring people together,” says Andrea Vaccari, the product manager for the new feature. “Nearby Friends sort of pushes that forward by making it a little easier to find new opportunities to meet your friends while you’re out and about.”
Once Nearby Friends is activated manually, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) offers a tutorial to begin sharing your location with select groups. Once the feature is turned on it remains on until it is manually turned off by the user. Your location can be broadcast for a certain time period or indefinitely based on your configuration.
The testing process
The majority of Facebook’s 6,500 employees have been testing the feature for the last year and a half according to Vaccari. Many employees complained about the frequency of the notifications but they have been scaled back dramatically since testing began.
Like many of Facebook’s technologies, the feature adapts as it learns more about you. “The app learns where you spend most of your time, and it avoids sending notifications when you’re at those locations,” explains Vaccari. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) intends to store this information but promises only to use it within Nearby Friends and users can delete their history manually within the app’s settings.
While CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) would be launching a host of standalone apps this year, Nearby Friends is not one of them. Rather, the decision was made to build it into its flagship app to “go where the users already are.”
“My hope is that people will see from their friends that there is actually a lot of value in this experience,” said Vaccari. “I’m curious to see how people are going to use it.”